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181 articles in category Life / Subscribe

For me, twenty-sixteen started with a text.

My family – my parents, my first sister, her husband and her baby boy and I – were spending our Christmas and New Year’s holiday in Japan. We were somewhat lost, and trying to find our way back to the hotel from the train station. Suddenly my phone rang. My cousin sent me a Facebook chat: ‘Ella, are you in Japan? My father told me to tell you that Empo is currently at the hospital. She has stroke.’

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As we are getting older, lip service is getting more culturally needed too. Back in our teens, we might say to out friends, ‘Your pencilcase is cute!’ or ‘Where do you get your phone casing? It’s so pretty!’

Probably those comments are harmless – it’s just something we say to each other to make each other feels good about themselves. It’s encouraged for children even, teaching them how to care for their friends and say nice things about them. But who do we learn it from? Our parents.

Just think about it. Growing up, you see how the adults converse with each other, and in the beginning there would be a comment of, ‘You’re getting so skinny!’ or ‘Ahhh you’re so pretty today!’ or ‘What a nice dress!’

So without realising it, we begin to adopt the same culture.

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Have you had one of those sleepless nights where you’re tossing around on bed, feeling like sleep just an embrace away but when you try to hold it, it slips away?

Well that’s a very poetic way to describe insomnia, and yesterday, I just couldn’t get myself to sleep.

During those excruciating hours, I kept on tossing and turning, and creating a mental imagery in my head to buy a bedside lamp as soon as possible. Ever since I watched the movie PS. I Love You, I have always wanted to buy a bedside lamp. Clearly, I hate being all cozy in bed only to come to the realisation that I have to kick this wonderful blanket and walk to the other side of the room to turn the lights off. There’s an exact same scene in the movie. Holly keeps on tripping due to the dark, and she wants a bedside lamp. I want it too.

For the longest time, I was on bed, thinking of what kind of lamp should I be getting, and how much an IKEA one will cost. Then I was thinking about something else, something that’s not entirely foreign but not necessarily pleasant.

I was thinking about regrets.

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Marie walked onto the stage. She was a woman in her late thirties, and from the outside eyes, she was just like you and me, wearing glasses with black frame, having straight, black hair that rested on her shoulder.

With eyes looking down on her paper, Marie said, ‘I would like to first give a disclosure: I’m not condemning the Indonesians. I have forgiven and moved on. But this is my story of growing up in East Timor, and how I became a refugee here in Australia.’

She looked at us expectantly. The crowd sat in silence, with occasional whimper of children echoed in the auditorium hall. She began again, ‘I grew up in East Timor. When I was nine, the Indonesian military attacked us. Bombs were dropping. I was nine, and I was no stranger to seeing decomposing bodies on the street, sometimes with bullet wounds.’

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This semester was my weirdest so far.

I have two contact hours weekly and another two contact hours biweekly. I am supposed to meet with my thesis supervisor for one hour for every two weeks. That’s all.

But I have been in a state of busyness that surpasses all my previous eight semesters of uni.

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It’s weird that I don’t feel weird to come home to an empty apartment. On the contrary, I feel like everything’s still the same. My teal kettle was where I left it – there on the left side of the couch with my seventeen-hour old cup of Japanese green tea beside it.

I put my keys on the wooden bowl on top of the shoe cabinet, dumped my bag on the chair, reached my kettle and reboiled the water as it was still half full. I changed my clothes. I threw away the old tea bag, rinsed the cup a little bit and reached for another tea bag. I then collapsed on the sofa and turned on the TV. Just another day. Just another routine.

Everything’s changed though. Well, not everything. Something has. Today is the second day of me living alone. I’ve lived alone before, for approximately ten days when my sister went home for the holidays. This time, she went home, but she wasn’t going back to live with me.

She got married.

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1. Money is not the most important thing. Spend it when you can, with moderation, and enjoy life once in a while. Oh, and never spend what you don’t have.

2. Family is the most important thing. Dad always drills the lesson of ‘three is better than one’, and us three daughters are (too) close to each other.

3. When it comes to your friends asking to borrow money, either give it to them completely or don’t. Money is such a sensitive issue; it will ruin your friendship in the future.

4. Education is important. Or, in my Dad’s words: ‘As long as I can still provide for your education, go attain one, as high as you can. Money can run out, but knowledge enables you to make money again.’

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In a conversation earlier today with my close friend, I said this to her, ‘Good people make mistakes too.’ I was not trying to cover for the mistakes that people did, but at that time, I was thinking of what someone else told me, ‘Everyone is a good person, only if you wait long enough.’ So I said that to her.

But I think so. Generally speaking, I think everyone is good. Or probably. No one’s born evil, right? And deep down we all have this kind of morality where we want the greater good. Yes, we are selfish, but overall we are good. We are nice. Or nice enough.

Some hours later, I’m thinking about that sentence I said to my friend, and I’m thinking about it when I’m reading a book about writing. In the chapter titled, ‘Characters’, the author said that we ought to spend a lot of time in the head of the characters we create – what’s she like? Why’s she behaving a certain way when her coffee’s spilled?

And while reading that paragraph, I remembered something else that someone told me sometime ago: we always judge ourselves with the inside context, we always judge people based purely on their action.

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